When you grow up in India, you’re always offered fruit and vegetables to eat at home depending on the season. In the summer Pops would always bring back mangoes in the official bazaar bag – a big white and ugly plastic bag with a single red line running down at one end. In winter with all the lectures came carrots – juicy and bright in the white,ugly bag. Living away from home now leaves little option. Oh the luxury of mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.
2016 unlike 2015 hasn’t been a silent year. This year I’ve written on noisy trains with people passing tea in the middle of my screen. I’ve typed furiously on a short flight while the air hostesses showed us how to wear our lifejackets. In a cab, in a hurry with the latest Punjabi beats on tap and even in an elevator before a presentation. In Bangalore, with a submission on the line – the three and a half kilometer drive from the tube to the office was enough time to proof read the piece in an auto rickshaw. Mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.
The soul of my machine is well traveled – maybe even more than I have now. Life is so different I don’t even react to it anymore. So when an old school friend called on me explaining that she was getting older and she wanted me over I didn’t blink twice. Late nights had been the norm and I was looking forward to none of it. A horrible throat earlier in the week had me against the ropes, almost dead but I kicked the bucket and hailed the last bus off campus. Mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.
The last thing on my mind that Saturday night was meeting someone I hadn’t seen in a while. Some are doctors. Some are lawyers – they’re an illusion to me now. I wonder what they’re doing with their lives now? The apartment wore a rugged look since I was last there. Shadows of my previous visit lurked in the dark corners and as the evening wore on they faded in the distance to make way for my current one. Mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.
She was first seeing someone when we first met, soon to be single. I’d always ask about her when I called that side of town so far, warm and brighter than my room here at university. Sometimes I’d see the occasional post and think of her but that was it. She walked in and we immediately hit it off. Not a word was spoke between us, everything was unresolved. She said we should move this to her place. Mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.
In a matter of minutes we were on her balcony staring at the far horizon – the abyss that made up the landscape view out of her apartment. A cigarette passed between us was the only sign of physical contact as the cold night wore on. The smoke disappeared into thin air like most of my life but something convinced to hang around a little longer. Mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.
Back at the party we were wanted. As the elevator took us between the floors,it would be poetic justice to say we looked at each other and smiled – but it would tragic as well to say I looked at her and smiled while leaving her reaction for the reader to figure out for themselves. Mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.
As usual like the damn Batman sign in the sky, work beckoned – there’s always bills to pay whispered my evil head to me. The night ended with me texting her I’d be leaving the next morning. She asked me to wake her up before I left. At so many levels I began wondering if I should call or not. Mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.
She was ready downstairs, revving up her dusty sedan. Very kindly I was offered a ride back to the place I tried not to belong. We drove that car as far as we could. The rest of the morning was a blur, coffee and aloo paratha before life came calling. As I watched the dark shiny car pull away I wondered. Mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.
You can’t have em’ all. In the cold of the winter staring at the paint peeling from my hostel room, the only noise I hear is the rhythmic tapping of keys. There is a deathly silence punctuating the air as the end of the year approaches. All this while the impression I had of a writer was exactly that – sitting like Hemingway or Kerouac did. Or a great leader like Napoleon did in his time. How wrong could I be?
As wrong as mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.